18 months later: Is Paris finally into me?
This week I am celebrating two separate milestones. One: 30 years of LIFE! Two: 18 months in Paris.
When I first started this blog, it was kind of a natural reflex to the chaos that was going on around me. I had reached my twelve-month point in Paris, and all my hopes, dreams and unrealistic expectations were crashing down at my feet. I wanted so desperately to fit in in Paris yet I was experiencing nothing but failure, rejection and disappointment. I needed an outlet to make sense of the misadventures I was living — or a blog-based comeback to the Universe's wisecracks!
For a while, the blog seemed to help. As I transformed my thoughts and feelings into prose everything seemed lighter, funnier, and more fathomable (and in sharing my experiences I connected with all of you - bonus!). But then Spring rolled around and I found myself at an all-time low.
I was beating myself up over the latest romantic setback, I had just discovered a mould problem in my new apartment (which meant that I needed to go through the whole move thang again), and I had just received a knock on the window from the architecture firm located beneath my apartment (I didn’t even know there was an architecture firm located beneath me — I lived on the ground floor!) to tell me that my washing machine was leaking into their offices.
I spent the next hour (and the next 150€) on the phone to my Dad in Australia. What began as an emergency call to fix the leak turned into a tearful confession about the leaky state of my Parisian life. Everything was going spectacularly wrong, and I was totally miserable.
“Well then come home!” was my Dad’s exasperated response from the other side of the world, “Give up on the French — is it really worth all the pain?”
Was it worth the pain? I wasn’t sure. Did I want to go home? I didn’t really think so, but then it was clear that I wasn’t happy. What did I want to do? I had no idea.
Sometimes in our darkest moments we give birth to the brightest ideas. One time, whilst trying to enter my building after a boozy night out I realised I had forgotten the code to the door. I slumped against the building in despair, bracing myself for a night outside on the pavement. It was then that I had one of the most brilliant ideas of my life — to look up the door code on my Foodora account.
A similarly brilliant idea occurred to me as I hung up the phone from my Dad and set about sponging the bathroom floor. If I didn’t know what step to take next, why didn’t I skip that for the time being? I decided I was going to imagine my ideal life in five years time, and then work my way back. It would kind of be life algebra. If I knew where I was now, and where I wanted to be in five years time, then it should be pretty easy to determine ‘x’.
And so I sat there and I wrote. I described my ideal life, and I bawled my eyes out. There were things on the list which surprised me, and things which were not on the list which broke my heart. There were conflicting aspects which were impossible awaiting any viable teleportation solution. But one thing was for certain, the city I was describing in my five year future was Paris.
I wasn’t in the wrong place, I had just been looking for validation in the wrong place. Rather than wondering if I was happy here, I was asking Paris to like me. I was looking everywhere for signs of acceptance, for permission to be happy here. Of course, no one ever likes someone who is desperate to be liked, and Paris was no exception.
Once I figured out that I wanted to stay in Paris, I didn’t care so much whether Paris wanted me to stay. I figured I was staying, and Paris could just got used to it! What was more, I decided that I was going to stay on my own terms.
I decided that I wanted to find a tribe of awesome people in Paris regardless of their nationality (I also realised that in fixating on having French friends I was being just as prejudiced as I felt they were being towards me); I wanted to find a mould-free apartment in the 9th, with a balcony; I wanted to find a job working for a French technology startup specifically in the area of artificial intelligence, which was aiming at an American market; I wanted Ryan Gosling to profess his undying love for me and his burning desire to elope.
Once I stopped trying so hard for French people to like me I ended up making a bunch of friends who are 0% French but 100% awesome. Once I stopped acting weird and desperate around the French they too started warming up to me! In August I found a fifth-floor apartment in South Pigalle with exposed-beam ceilings and a balcony. It’s been five months now, and there is no mould to report. In January I will start working for a French cyber security startup based in the heart of Paris. They use artificial intelligence to scan the web in order to detect data leaks on behalf of their clients. They are aiming at the American market with plans to open offices in New York in the next couple of years.
Is Paris finally into me? Maybe. But more importantly I just stopped caring so much about what it thought of me. I figured out what I wanted, and set upon getting it whether Paris liked it or not.
Was Paris worth the pain? Every single tear. Every single heartbreak. Every single incorrect conjugation. Every single leaking washing machine.
What I initially saw as hostility and rebukes from Paris turned out to be nothing more than little tests. I needed to experience every single setback in order to prove to myself that I had my own back. I needed to get to the point where I was calling my Dad in the middle of the night, questioning my future in Paris, in order to force myself to articulate the future that I actually wanted. And as it turns out, that future was Paris.
Some readers may be wondering how I am progressing in terms of the Ryan Gosling-related goal. I am still waiting for Ryan to reach out to me, but given the success of all of my other visualisations, I figure it’s only a matter of time. And in the meantime I guess I’m just going to have to keep visualising.
A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do ;)